Matej Mohorič claimed another terrific trademark solo victory on stage seven of the Benelux Tour as his teammate Sonny Colbrelli wrapped up the overall title.
The Bahrain-Victorious rider attacked multiple times in the final hour’s racing, and at one point it looked as if he would steal the general classification honours from Colbrelli, the previous day's stage winner.
But the Italian reduced Mohorič's advantage and finished 11 seconds behind the Slovenian, with a fragmented chase group crossing the line shortly after a frantic day's racing in Belgium.
It is only the second GC victory of Colbrelli's career, the 31-year-old who is best known as a sprinter increasing his season win tally to five.
Mohorič, meanwhile, further staked his claim as one of the season's standout riders, the Slovenian national champion having won two stages at the Tour de France and finishing second at both the San Sebastian Classic and the Tour of Poland.
How it happened
It took more than an hour for the breakaway to be formed, but with 70km on the clock, it was a group of 11 who were permitted to hang out front, including Philippe Gilbert (Lotto-Soudal), Casper Pedersen (Team DSM), Toms Skujinš (Trek-Segafredo) and Dries Devenyns (Deceuninck – Quick-Step).
Following the first ascent of the Muur van Geraardsbergen, the peloton reduced the break’s advantage and Mohorič, second on GC, counter-attacked with Victor Campenaerts, himself third.
They were joined by Kasper Asgreen and Brandon McNulty and the four built a gap of a minute, enough to ascend Mohorič into the virtual leader’s jersey by six seconds.
They lost their advantage shortly after, but Mohorič went again on De Muur, this time bringing with him five other riders. Colbrelli was hyper-sensitive to his teammate's moves, though, and ensured that he was alongside Asgreen and Tim Wellens in chasing Mohorič, an unusual situation given they both ride for the same team.
Mohorič, however, used his time trialling expertise to build a solo lead and it wasn’t long until Colbrelli opted for damage limitation and joined the larger chasing group that was 30 seconds behind Mohorič.
At six kilometres to go, Mohorič was close to eliminating the deficit he had to Colbrelli, but then the Italian joined Tom Dumoulin (Jumbo-Visma) in attacking from the chase, reducing Mohorič’s advantage to 25 seconds.
Coming into the finishing town of Geraardsbergen, Colbrelli and Dumoulin had sufficiently reduced Mohorič’s lead to ensure that Colbrelli would win the race, but Mohorič crossed the line first to complete another phenomenal performance by the Bahrain-Victorious rider in what has been the greatest season of his career.
Results: Benelux Tour 2021, stage seven: Namur > Geraardsbergen, 178km
1. Matej Mohorič (Slo) Bahrain-Victorious at 3-50.56
2. Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Victorious at 11s
3. Tom Dumoulin (Ned) Jumbo-Visma, at 15s
4. Christophe Laporte (Fra) Cofidis, at 22s
5. Fred Wright (GBr) Bahrain-Victorious, at same time
6. Danny van Poppel (Ned) intermarché - Wanty - Gobert Matériaux at 24s
7. Tom van Asbroeck (Bel) Israel Start-Up Nation
8. Greg van Avermaet (Bel) AG2R Citroën
9. Tiesj Benoot (Bel) Team DSM
10. Peter Sagan (Svk) Bora-Hansgrohe, all at same time
General classification after stage seven
1. Sonny Colbrelli (Ita) Bahrain-Victorious
2. Matej Mohorič (Slo) Bahrain-Victorious
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